April 16, 2020 @ 15:37 by Steven Hugill
More than 1600 Darlington businesses have received grants totalling £16 million to support them through the coronavirus pandemic.
In the three weeks since the Government announced support for small businesses and those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, staff from Darlington Borough Council have worked to administer the scheme and pay grants as quickly as possible.
Their efforts have won praise from Councillor Heather Scott, leader of Darlington Borough Council, who has thanked them for their “fantastic effort” to distribute the grants.
The team have taken more than 1200 phone calls from business owners and responded to 900 online enquiries, all while carrying out their normal duties.
Councillor Scott said: “It has been a monumental challenge for our staff to set up this scheme and pay out much needed funds to local businesses in Darlington in such a short space of time.
“However, their speed and dedication has been the difference between businesses being forced to close and keeping afloat in these difficult times.
“It is vital to protect the small businesses that provide employment for so many of our residents and are the lifeblood of our local economy.
“I want to thank all of the staff involved for their fantastic efforts.
“I’d also like to thank the business owners involved for their patience and strength during what I know are trying times for all of them.”
One businessman who benefitted from the scheme sent an email of thanks, praising the “astonishing pace” at which his support was administered.
“The way this has been dealt with has greatly exceeded all of my expectations and I am truly grateful,” he said.
Most retail, hospitality and leisure-based businesses in England now qualify for 100 per cent retail rates relief for the next 12 months.
Businesses entitled to the 100 per cent retail relief operating from premises with a rateable value of between £15,001 and £50,999 will receive a £25,000 grant, while grants of £10,000 will be awarded to any small business eligible for Small Business Rates Relief.
Nursery ratepayers in properties on the Early Years Register will also be given a rates holiday for 2020/21.
Darlington Borough Council says it will automatically apply the new discounts to all eligible businesses.